Here is a typical bit of chit-chat between neighbors.
“How are you doing?” one neighbor asks.
“Fine, fine,” says the other. “How are you?”
“Not bad. See you later!”
And we know that both people could be lying or hiding how they’re really doing. They’re not fine. They’re far from fine. But you can’t admit that, can you? In our culture, you have to say that you’re doing “good” even when you’re not and desperate to tell someone what you’re going through.
When you’re suffering, are you too embarrassed to tell people? Why do you feel the need to keep quiet about it, even with friends? Why try to cover it up? Where does that cultural expectation come from?
Nick Lannon asks:
How do you handle your deep-seated sufferings? Do we, knowing that Christ came to and for sufferers, wear the thorns in our flesh as badges of honor? Or are we keeping our needs deep beneath the surface, in the subconscious hope that when Jesus comes, we’ll be able to say, “I’m doing just fine on my own, thanks”? If it’s true that sufferers will, in Christ, lack nothing (James 1), why do we work so hard to seem just fine? (Lannon, Life Is Impossible, p. 104).
Paul said that the believer is complete in Christ:
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power (Col 2:9-10).
The reason why you need to be complete in Christ is that you’re a mess. Jesus had to save you by grace, through faith, apart from works; because you have so many sins in your thoughts, words, and deeds, and so much dysfunction in your relationships with other people, you could never be saved based on your own efforts or merits. And frankly, in a strange way, that is a very freeing thought. It means you don’t need to work hard at appearing fine. You can freely admit, “No, I’m not doing good. I’m struggling. Life hurts right now. I need Jesus!”
But how much do you need Him?
Have you ever seen the “Footprints in the Sand” poster?
In that poster, someone has a dream of two sets of footprints in the sand. One belongs to the dreamer and the other to the Lord. But the dreamer notices that there was only one set of footprints during times of trouble, prompting him to ask the Lord why he was abandoned at those times. Jesus answers, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Or does it?
There is a kernel of truth there—namely, Jesus will never abandon the believer.
But if you think about it more, doesn’t that poster present Jesus more as a helper than as a Savior? Is it really true that Jesus only carries you some of the time?
How does that picture of Jesus reinforce the popular perception that salvation depends at least a little bit on your own efforts?
We’re willing to let Jesus carry us part of the way. We’re willing to be helped, but we want to be our own savior. We will accept a helping hand, but not a savior from outside of ourselves (Lannon, Life Is Impossible, p. 105).
Let’s be clear. You are in no position to save yourself. When it comes to eternal salvation, Jesus carries you the whole way. There is no partnership there. There is no part of eternal salvation that you can accomplish on your own. There can be only one set of footprints into the kingdom—Jesus’. He must do all the work for you, or it won’t get done at all. Any other gospel is built on sand.